It is time for the England obituary that I am sure many of you were not waiting for.
Ramble of the Day
It was so unsurprising at the start of England’s World Cup campaign. Victories against Tunisia and Panama were the easiest of goals accomplished by Gareth Southgate’s team, and a 1-0 loss to Belgium in a battle of the reserves was hardly worth complaining about. After all, losing guaranteed an easier time in the knockout stage. I’m not so sure the rest of the story was predictable.
For starters, a penalty shootout victory for England in a World Cup was something most could not get their hopes up about, but it finally happened against Colombia. It was a narrow margin of victory, and the overall sample size was small, but England’s love affair with its men’s football team had finally begun, and it was hard not to see why. Southgate had brought a mostly likable, young, and incredibly talented squad to Russia, and figured out how to maximize their strengths. The result was attacking football with enough entertainment, and a structure sound enough to hold off most opponents. It seemed as if the England team had the right coach and the right players at the right time, and the right anthem, even as they finally went down after losing to Croatia in the team’s first World Cup semifinal since 1990. At that point, though, its status as a team its supporters could be proud of was already cemented.
They were, of course, not perfect; Croatia ultimately exposed England’s defensive weaknesses, and deserve a place in Sunday’s final. Additionally, Southgate did not get the team choice right further up the pitch, and could have benefitted from certain substitutions. However, they likely will not be remembered for their failures, as the many England teams before them were. Instead, they brought a lot of unexpected joy that, at least to my eyes, was really nice to see. The good news is that, barring anything dramatic, this was just the first big step in long international careers for this group of players.
Go ahead and listen to “Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)” one last time while we’re at it. You’re not going to get it out of your head for the next month anyway.
tl;dr: England, it was very fun while it lasted.
Links of the Day
Fiat employees are going on strike in response to Juventus signing Cristiano Ronaldo, as the club’s majority owner has a sizable share in Fiat’s parent company, Ferrari.
Transfer roundup: Andriy Yarmolenko has joined West Ham from Borussia Dortmund; Arsenal have signed Mattéo Guendouzi from Lorient; Borussia Dortmund have signed Achraf Hakimi on loan from Real Madrid
Today’s longer read: Simon Kuper argues that buying players after successful World Cup campaigns is probably the worst way to do business for ESPN